Bears chairman George McCaskey lucky to be where he is — and he knows it
BY SEAN JENSEN email@example.com March 26, 2013 7:33PM
Chicago Bears chairman George McCaskey smiles as he speaks at a news conference at Halas Hall in Lake Forest, Ill., Tuesday, July 26, 2011., after the NFL Players Association executive board and 32 team reps voted unanimously Monday to approve the terms of a deal with owners to the end the 41/2-month lockout. Now that an agreement is in place, it's time for the Chicago Bears to get to work. (AP Photo/Nam Y. Huh)
Updated: April 28, 2013 6:48AM
PHOENIX — NFL owners appeared to be in their element on the manicured grounds of the Arizona Biltmore, a Frank Lloyd Wright-influenced resort nicknamed the ‘‘Jewel of the Desert,’’ last week at their spring meeting.
They sauntered around in custom suits and luxurious loafers, many of them with assistants in tow.
Not Bears chairman George McCaskey. He wears off-the-rack suits to blend in, not stand out; doesn’t travel with an entourage; and, back at Halas Hall, declines a special parking spot for his Honda Accord.
‘‘It would be unseemly for me to walk around preening, like I’d done something,’’ McCaskey told the Sun-Times. ‘‘I have the best job in the world. There are a few million Bears fans who would instantaneously — and unquestionably — trade places with me.’’
In his first two seasons as chairman, the Bears failed to qualify for the playoffs. McCaskey, though, has refused to stand pat, empowering longtime president Ted Phillips to fire general manager Jerry Angelo after the 2011 season, then green-lighting GM Phil Emery to fire coach Lovie Smith after last season.
‘‘I didn’t feel any need or obligation to put my personal stamp on the organization,’’ he said. ‘‘[Founder] George Halas’ stamp is already all over this organization. But you can’t be afraid to make a change.’’
When McCaskey replaced brother Michael as chairman, commissioner Roger Goodell recommended that he visit other owners to get a peek at the daily demands of the position. McCaskey spent time with about a dozen,
including the Rooneys, the Maras, the Krafts and the Joneses.
‘‘I told him that you have to have a thick skin, that you’re going to get criticized in the news,’’ New York
Giants president John Mara told the Sun-Times. ‘‘But the important thing is to stick to your principles, build a strong organization.
‘‘Being successful in the NFL usually starts with three things: general manager, head coach, quarterback. You’ve got to have those three things. If you don’t have any one of those things, it’s pretty tough to win. It sounds easy, but picking the right people for those spots is pretty tough. I think they have that in Chicago.’’
Informed of Mara’s comments, McCaskey said: ‘‘As so often is the case, I think he’s right. You need a great general manager, you need a great coach and you need a great quarterback. He’s got it, and I think we do, too.’’
Phillips said McCaskey stresses communication and a team-first mentality.
‘‘He’s been very clear in what’s impor-
tant to him,’’ Phillips said. ‘‘I think that helps everyone know where everyone stands and keeps us in harmony on big decisions. There are no agendas.’’
McCaskey can’t imagine things any other way.
‘‘I want to be informed and I want to be involved, but I don’t want to
interfere,’’ he said. ‘‘It seems to me that it would be very insulting to hire a general manager or a head coach after a
national — or international — search and then turn around and stick your nose in an area of their expertise.’’
Besides, McCaskey doesn’t think he’s in any position to big-time anyone. In talking about his philosophy, he politely interrupted Philadelphia Eagles owner Jeff Lurie to bolster a point.
McCaskey: ‘‘Mr. Lurie, do you mind sharing your purchase price?’’
Lurie: ‘‘$185 million.’’
‘‘So that’s $184,999,900 more than we paid for the Decatur Staleys,’’ McCaskey said. ‘‘Our acquisition was $100, and I didn’t have anything to do with this monumental legacy. George Halas laid the groundwork, worked his fingers to the bone, built it up, saw it become something fabulous. Our job is to carry it on.’’
NOTE: The Bears agreed to terms with veteran cornerback Kelvin Hayden on a one-year contract. Hayden appeared in all 16 of the Bears’ games last season and tied for the NFL lead with four fumble recoveries.